By Mark Bradeis | Contributor
What is better than being the Toronto Maple Leafs’ number 1 goal-scorer? Hoisting a Stanley Cup as Toronto’s number 1 goal scorer. That unfortunately will not happen.
No championship for Auston Matthews ever. His pretentious silly-looking mustache and wicked shot won’t ever hold the Cup above his head. He may be the greatest American-born goal scorer at some point in his career but will never have his name etched in glory.
This will not be because of a lack of talent.
At the Heritage Classic in 2022, Auston played a Stadium game outside where Rasmus Dahlin from the Buffalo Sabres frustrated Matthews at every touch of the puck after he scored a goal. This was the battle of 1st overall pick pedigree only separated by 2 Draft classes.
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Matthews was taken by the Maple Leafs in 2016, making them instant contenders and the biggest disappointment for a fan base since then. The fan base’s disappointment goes much deeper.
Dahlin was drafted by the Sabres in 2018. These two teams are only separated by Niagara Falls and a highway. The size of the market difference is David vs Goliath.
Certain cities are fun, and Buffalo is a tough place to be a professional athlete. Toronto is a place most players are happy regardless of team success, hence the lack of championships.
This game was on the national stage. The spotlight on the biggest stars on the biggest stage for the week. Matthews scores one early and makes a face of pure self-loathing.
He oozes “Why can’t everyone be as good as me?”. He does his job but is focused on personal accolades. He already won with his ability to score and his large contract.
When the almost always squeaky Petr Mrázek gives up a few soft goals, you see the disgust on Matthew’s face. After Matthews’s goal, Rasmus stuck with him for the rest of the game.
At one point, the two first-overall picks battle in front of the net in Buffalo’s defensive zone. They fight for position and Dahlin gets the best of Matthews.
Matthew gets up and purposefully cross-checks Dahlin in the neck. This action could have resulted in severe injury.
He was suspended 2 games and forfeited just over $100k in salary. This cross-check was dirty and one that any decent human would issue a serious apology.
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Instead, Matthews dismissed the incident and acted like he didn’t intend on driving his stick into Dahlin’s neck. Video evidence is pretty tough to deny.
In the first 7 years of Matthews’s career, according to hockey-reference.com, Matthews most resembles Eric Lindros in terms of quality and shape of a career with a 94.3% resemblance. Eric never hoisted the Cup.
The next notable player that Matthew compares to is Sidney Crosby with a 91.6% resemblance.
Matthews does not perform in the playoffs. His elite skill and athletic ability do provide an advantage any time he is on the ice.
The defensive scheme and individual players like Dahlin during the Heritage Classic used Matthews and his aggressive nature against Toronto.
The Heritage Classic finished with a 5-2 Buffalo win. Matthews finished with a minus -2 rating, which means he was on the ice for 3 goals against Toronto.
He is allowed to play loose all season to shoot and score at will. When the playoffs begin; however, a defensive-minded team frustrates him.
The incident with Dahlin showed he is vulnerable to losing focus when matched with an equal counterpart. He becomes more of a liability.
The Leafs are 21-29 in playoff games with Matthews. He has a plus-minus of EVEN total in 50 games.
He scores goals at a .62 clip during the regular season and it drops to .44 in the playoffs. That is an almost 20 percent decrease in goals upon playing against more hungry players.
In Sidney Crosby’s first 50 playoff games, he was +17 plus-minus and scored 24 goals to Matthews 22 while Sidney had 63 points total to Matthew 44. The difference of 19 points in 50 games is significant and highlights the gap in player quality.
Crosby was brought up with a great hockey leader in Mario Lemieux and was provided incredible mentorship from Day 1 in Matthews’s defense. This was an obvious advantage to Crosby.
Toronto is a cursed hockey town and Matthews is not the answer. He does not bring the leadership needed to win championships.
Toronto should ship him to Arizona. That market could use a goal scorer and a local hero. Toronto’s management needs to prioritize championships over money.
They need to follow the ‘defense wins championships’ system. They have been running the ‘goal scorers sell tickets and TV viewership system’ for way too long now.
I hope Matthews matures and wins a Cup. It will only be after he sheds the ego and pretentious attitude.
That starts with apologizing to Dahlin by admitting Dahlin got the best of him and he overacted.
Big Ups to Phil Kessel on his 3rd Cups since leaving Toronto.
Next Up… Will the Oilers get Connor McDavid a goalie or will McDavid leave for One?
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